Last update: 04-Dec-2013 10:40 pm
Wednesday, December 04, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Pan! - T&T film history in the making
“Picture is up!”
“Quiet on set!”
“Ok guys, that’s a cut!”
The assistant director meant business when he warned potential noisemakers and extras to keep quiet on the set of Pan! A Modern Odyssey, as cast and crew shot a scene at Unity Church on Abercromby Street, Port-of-Spain, a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, just up a flight of stairs, costume co-ordinators busily dressed the cast in costumes designed by Meiling for the day’s performance.
The 90-minute docudrama began filming on September 14 and wrapped 13 days later, using several locations throughout the country, including Santa Cruz, Belmont, and Laventille.
The film combines the history of pan—from its birth to Panorama to eventual national instrument status—with a fresh, fictional twist.
It is set in Trinidad with a 1940s backdrop, and revolves around the story of a young boy called “Goldteeth,” played by Renaldo Fredrick, who leaves a steelband in Port-of-Spain and moves to Tacarigua, where he joins another band and brings the two together. The film comprised 20 main actors, 50 crew members, and depending on the scale of the scenes, up to 200 extras, all from T&T.
Journalist turned scriptwriter, and brains behind it all Dr Kim Johnson explained that the audience will understand the main changes in the steelband movement through Goldteeth’s journey.
He said the movie had to be worthy of an international market, and a professional crew was therefore necessary to ensure a high-quality production. Enter producer Jean-Michel Gibert, the founder and director of the Caribbean Music Group, who recently produced a well-received documentary called Calypso Rose: The Lioness of the Jungle, an intimate portrait of the legendary singer from Tobago.
Johnson has written several books on the history of steelband and said when Gibert approached him with similar aspirations to capture the story and beauty of pan in film, the ball got rolling slowing but surely.
“We started off with a script two years ago...It’s been re-written about 15 or 20 times and the story has changed completely. It’s sort of unrecognisably different now. But that was the start.”
The director of the fictional portion of the film was Belgium-born Jerome Guiot, while French director Thierry Teston directed the documentary, which was shot during Carnival earlier this year.
The multi-million-dollar film has had a continuous spell of good luck since production began, as many businesses have been charitable with their time and resources. Johnson said Penta Paints donated old drums that were turned into antique pans, and other agencies (governmental and non-governmental alike) have contributed money and free use of props.
“We just have so much love. People have been working 18-hour days—it is crazy how people have been working. There is such a vast support and togetherness,” Johnson said, lighting up as he detailed the generosity of many. “I have to say, T&T really come out to help us. Otherwise we couldn’t have done it.”
He said scouting for locations was challenging at times because of the time period the movie portrayed.
“The action of the film takes place in the 1940s, so locations are a real problem. Everywhere in Trinidad looks modern. In the 1940s there were no burglar bars—now everywhere has burglar bars.”
Similarly, old clothes and vintage cars were needed to match that decade, true to the movie’s portrayal. Meiling created printed T-shirts with old band names, while vintage car-collector Bramie Maharaj lent the production three of his cars for a scene shot outside Zen nightclub on Keate Street.
The film will be launched at the Cannes Film Festival in France with live steelband music in May 2014, Johnson said, joking that he promised to introduce his mother to actor Brad Pitt. Also, Pan! was sold to the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS), the US’ largest public media enterprise with over 170 stations, guaranteeing the movie widespread screening and viewership.
“Getting out there is the important thing. We have the talent.”
He said just as this movie opened international doors and opportunities, perhaps it could pave the way for other local films to receive similar recognition.
On the set, the sense that history was in the making was palpable.
Dream come true
The production of Pan! is not a dream come true for Johnson alone, as many others have been touched by the opportunity to be a part of the production.
Ingle Watson from the School of Business and Computer Science (SBCS), who is doing a diploma in creative media production, gushed about getting an intern position with the film as an assistant director.
“This is the first film set I am working on. It has been a phenomenal experience.”
Watson is working toward her bachelor degree in media and communications, as the diploma is a prerequisite.
“For one of my courses, I was required to intern in a creative media field. I was fortunate enough through the T&T Film Company (TTFC) I was able to get this internship. I’m enjoying every moment of it, and it’s one of the greatest learning experiences I’ve had.”
She said she understood the value of the movie, how it would represent T&T, and immortalise the country’s heritage and legacy.
“We came up with the pan, yet we don’t have a proper pan-making factory. And you’re watching these countries internationally, they are manufacturing our national instrument...So we as Trinidadians, we should really take this seriously.”
Other interns from the University of T&T (UTT) are getting in on the experience too, as Johnson explained there was a “whole heap of interns doing different things—We have photography, sound engineering, set design and props.”
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